Stop inviting black bears to dinner

To the Editor:

The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America.

It is the continent’s most widely distributed bear species. Black bears are omnivores with their diets varying greatly, depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes, they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food.

Up to 85 percent of the black bear’s diet consists of vegetation. In the summer, this means fruit, especially berries. During the fall, maximizing calories is the full-time job of black bears. Nuts, such as acorns and white pine nuts, may be consumed by the hundreds each day.

Black bears living in areas near humans often find trash, birdseed, small agricultural animals, plus honey. Birdseed and garbage can provide two to three times more calories than natural foods. The remaining 15 percent of the black bear’s animal diet consists of insects, such as bees, yellow jackets, ants and their larvae, plus sometimes carrion.

Although an adult bear is quite capable of killing a human, American black bears typically avoid confronting humans when possible. The last person in New Hampshire killed by a black bear was in 1784.

If you do not want bears visiting your house, do not hang bird feeders before Dec. 1 or after April 1, as per New Hampshire Fish and Game. Bears that learn where you feeders are and train their young so generations of bears will be coming to your house looking for your bird feeders. Either you or your neighbors will be upset by a bear’s visit, someone will call the authorities and the bear is likely to be shot.

Remember: A fed bear is a dead bear.

In addition:

1. If you feed the birds, only do so between Dec. 1 and April 1 (when bears are sleeping).

2. Don’t feed pets outdoors.

3. Store livestock food indoors.

4. Do not store trash outside.

5. Clean your outdoor grill to remove odors.

6. Cover compost odors by adding a layer of lime, wood ash or sawdust.

If you would like to learn more about black bear behavior, you are invited to a free presentation by Ben Kilham on Living with Black Bears on Sunday, Nov. 24, from 2-4 p.m., at the Lawrence Barn on Depot Road in Hollis. This event is being co-sponsored by Beaver Brook Nature Center, the Hollis Social Library and Toadstool Bookshop of Milford.

Ben Kilham is a renown wildlife biologist and wildlife rehabilitator in New Hampshire, who specializes in black bears. He has just released his second book on the subject this month. Ben has been filmed by Discovery Channel and National Geographic and called the “Bear Man.”

CELESTE PHILBRICK BARR

Education Director

Beaver Brook Nature Center